It’s been a long time since we got a new Borderlands game, and during its absence, different games filled up the looter shooter genre (to some degree) with the likes of Destiny, The Division, and more. While not the same games per se, the Borderlands franchise has enough similarities with these games to fall under the looter shooter genre. The big question now is: is the game a worthy addition to the franchise, or does it falter in today’s gaming landscape? Read on for our Borderlands 3 review to find out.
A Humorous Story Not Built for Everyone
And that is how it should be. I’m tired of seeing games trying to cater to every type of person out there or set out an agenda, sacrificing what made them so enjoyable the first time around. Borderlands 3 doesn’t shy away from all the crude jokes, pulling at whatever strings it could possibly find. I’ll admit it’s very meme-filled, but that’s what people of the franchise have come to know it for. While the main villains, the Calypso Twins, won’t hold a candle to the greatness that Handsome Jack (Borderlands 2) was, they’re in the least pretty entertaining to watch. Essentially, they’re a satire version of popular platform streamers that control the media.
These twins certainly don’t take a back seat as many of the villains in other games, and the game will certainly give you reasons to want to kill them. Along with some fresh faces we also get a ton of characters returning back. I never like going in-depth in the main story as I find it better for the players to experience it for themselves, but it’s definitely enjoyable and the side quests — albeit can be repetitive with tasks and backtracking — do offer some enjoyable dialogue interaction between the player and other key characters. There’s loads of side missions to do if you don’t want to just run off and rush through the campaign, and I found myself doing a good chunk of them through my first playthrough.
Advertised to have over a “bazilion” guns, Borderlands 3, much like its predecessor, offers players an absurd endless amount of weapons and gear that can be collected throughout the game’s campaign. Tons of hidden chests and unique drops from bosses give gamers all the reasons to replay this title, and of course that’s in addition to trying out the other available classes. Loot in this game doesn’t get boring as every single weapon has their own unique stats and effects and they can get pretty crazy. Some reward you with money, others will pack some sort of elemental punch and surprisingly, yes there are guns that do actually have legs and walk around. Either way, this game is nothing of short when it comes to loot and it’ll definitely satisfy anyone’s craving for a heavy loot base game.
There is one major improvement that Borderlands 3 does introduce and that’s to the co-operative loot. In the previous game when players would play in an instance with other all the loot was shared and could only be picked up by a single player. This created much frustration as players would miss out on some very rare legendary/exotic drops if someone else decided to pick it up before them. Of course the “trading” system back then allowed one player to drop the weapon for another to pick up, but there were still times when some would be completely selfish and not share whatever loot they can. This has all changed in Borderlands 3, and while it still offers the traditional co-operative loot, dubbed Coopetition, the new loot option lets everyone be happy by allowing them to pick up their own unique drops when in co-op. Enemy scaling is also tied to it where in coopetition enemies are scaled to the host and in the other (Cooperation) they are scaled to each individual players. Some may prefer the traditional loot system, but I’m thankful that they added the new option as I find it makes progression all the more flowing.
And we mentioned above that the previous trading system in the game requires players to drop guns for one another and while you can still do that, there is now a dedicated trading mechanism to make things far more easier between players. The overall loot system in Borderlands 3 is just so much more better and satisfying that other games should attempt to follow it. Heck they should look to the previous games still as many are still not to that point when it comes to loot. There’s just so much loot content in the game it’s hard to complain if the team were to decide add more later on as the package feels all there.
Same Old Dog Learning New Tricks
The core gunplay in truth hasn’t changed all that much from Borderlands 2. Sure they added a slide and vault mechanic along with a few other things, however, for the most part it will feel nearly identical to the past iteration. This isn’t to say this is a negative in anyway, but if you were hoping for some major overhaul with it, well lower those expectations. I will say it does feel the combat is more faster and fluid than the last three iterations, however the core experience remains the same regardless. And my philosophy has always been if it ain’t broke why fix it, though I can understand where some may come off as feeling tired despite the long releases. Honestly, despite having small changes to the overall gunplay, it’s actually the quality of life improvements that players should be looking forward to. There’s a lot of small changes this time around that make up to be major improvements. For example the fast traveling system has been overhauled to allow players to fast travel from anywhere on the map and you can even fast travel to a vehicle that you had abandoned. Other small changes include a ping system, trade system, being able to access vendors while others are using them, and so much more. Sure these features aren’t groundbreaking, but they do in the least add up to a better experience that makes it vastly superior to the previous Borderland games. I would like to point out unless I’m using the fast travel wrong there doesn’t appear to be a way to fast travel to other planets if a quest takes place there. No instead you’ll have to travel to the Sanctuary ship first and then fast travel to the other planet. Seems like a pretty annoying design flaw that surprisingly got passed through.
Moving on the game, much like the previous ones, features four unique starting classes with more likely to be added in the coming DLC. My first playthrough of Borderlands 3 I choose to go with Fl4K, who is a humanoid robot with abilities centered around pets and self-buffs. The class was pretty fun overall as with the other three that I got to try out after completing the campaign. The one glaring problem that I found throughout my playthrough was the excessive use of bullet sponge enemies. This may just be more of a sign that I was simply undergeared, however we even found that the bosses were pretty spongy themselves to the point that strafing was an endless loop during those fights. This issue was definitely easier solved during the cooperative play, though if you want to play it solo I suggest you at least invest in better gear than I did.
And speaking of co-op, if there is one thing that I must decide would be a feature in the Borderlands franchise that must be a standard in today’s industry, then it has to be the co-op system that fans have grown to love. For whatever reason, games today are doing co-op completely wrong. They either offer it, but only for a limited amount of missions, or they give us a full co-op experience but one player is completely missing out on unlocks and other campaign related goodies requiring them to play-through it on their own file. It’s as if they’re stuck in the old ways of gaming, yet Borderlands 1 was a thing since last generation. With Borderlands 3 (and the previous iterations) I can enjoy the full campaign with friends without having to worry about replaying the exact mission to get everyone caught up with one another. The only major downside is that if you join a friend’s campaign who happens to be ahead of yours then you’ll be brought up to their current campaign progression, meaning you just missed out on a lot of things such as boss fights, trophies, missions, and loot so do be careful. Either way, Borderlands to me has always set the gold standard when it comes to how developers should handle cooperative play in games as it doesn’t force players to re-run the game with the same character since campaign progression is all shared.
Super Clean Look, A Not So Silky Smooth Experience
Visually this time around Borderlands 3 offers the most diverse environments than any of its previous predecessors, although those ones were pretty diverse with what they had to work with. While at first glance the game does appear to look the same, I can assure you it isn’t. The overall picture quality is much more crisp and there are far more details in characters and the overall environment. The art style remains the same, though that isn’t surprising as it’s a staple of the series. Personally I’ve never been a big fan of it, always thought it looked ugly but hey that’s me and I know I can respect the consistency and unique look that it has going for it. Borderlands 3 without a question is the best looking Borderlands game to date and I did like how much cleaner it looked compared to last generation where visuals appeared more muddier. Character models don’t look reused as they have all been updated with new visuals to appear more smoother when it comes to their animations and they also have far more details. Pop-ins aren’t bad at all either and I’ve only noticed them for a small moment when loading into a new area or coming back from the dead.
Performance on the other hand was a bit of a hit and miss. Playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro I found it to be very common to experience hitching and frame-rate drops regardless if the area was populated or not. I can’t speak about the other platforms, though if the Pro was experiencing these then no doubt the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are also experiencing performance issues. Menus were especially slow when compared to everything else, which is odd because a majority of titles tend to keep the main menu UI as streamlined as possible. And do mind this was with the performance option selected on the PS4 Pro, which the other available option is resolution/graphics. It did run better but not by a whole lot. Split-screen is also back, though this is where the performance issues truly showed and we aren’t surprised by that since the base game struggles. Textures would have issues loading in and frame-rate dropping was way more noticeable than it was in solo play. I’d almost argue that it was unplayable as we stopped playing it that way here locally. Gearbox did acknowledge that they were looking into the performance issue, so hopefully this is resolved sooner rather than later.
I will say the in-game map is rather clunky and menus would typically hitch up. There’s also loading screens between areas on the same planet, which feels like a pretty dated design choice. The last game I played with loading between open world maps was Anthem, but thankfully the loads aren’t that bad. Annoying yes, but not to the point where I want to pull my own hair out. And at least the maps overall are large and filled with side quests so it gives players a reason to stick to a single zone before moving onto the next. Just throwing this out there for Gearbox, but maybe give us a seamless world for the next game.
Overall, despite seven years going by since the last mainline Borderlands title released Borderlands 3 for the most attempts to recapture the same core experience that fans grew to love, and it does. This game is specifically built for the fans and although it may not be the huge overhaul that many had hoped, similar to how Borderlands 2 was to one, in the least the game maintains everything a Borderlands fan could want out of a Borderlands game. I enjoyed the game for what it is and fans will also, though I will note that the experience is all too familiar to the point that it almost feels like a large DLC expansion to Borderlands 2. Take that as you will. I don’t necessarily think that’s bad as the franchise isn’t one that releases every year so it’s not like people are tired of it, but it does make you wonder if the studio could have done more in terms of advancing the franchise. Again I just want to stress that this is a game made for the fans, so if you’ve been on the fence and loved the other entries you should definitely pick this up. If you are new to the franchise, it honestly isn’t a bad starting point despite being the third entry. You’ll just obviously be out of the loop on a few things, so i would suggest you at least play the remasters before hopping into three.
Overall score: 8.5
- Diverse environments that won’t bore you
- Enjoyable story
- Tons of side quests to keep you playing for a long time
- Online Co-op continues to set the golden standard
- Tons of quality of life improvements to bring to title up-to-date
- Loot, Loot and Loot
- The soundtrack
- Slow and clunky UI
- Excessive amount of bullet sponges, bosses especially
- Frame-rate issues can dampen the experience
- Repetitive Missions and Backtracking
- No vertical Split-screen option and split-screen overall is a technical mess.
Copy provided by Publisher and played on the PlayStation 4 Pro. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.